As the new gardening year is under way, is it time to embark on a new era in your garden? It can be really refreshing to have a change of style, not necessarily in your whole garden but perhaps you could create a different and contrasting feel in a small part of your plot to the rest of your well-loved garden?
The Japanese style is largely very simplistic and aims to create a relaxed, calm environment. In any garden you’re going to need walls, fences, pathways and so forth, and if you use natural materials such as wood or of course bamboo, they blend in better with the surroundings of an existing or a newly planned garden and instantly help to create that oriental feel. Provided the surface is made relatively slip-proof, a small bridge can be created quite easily using a simple plank of wood, allowing you to cross over an existing or new pond or other water feature. Stain the wood an interesting colour: perhaps even bright Japanese-style red if you’re feeling daring.
Thinking of water, why not create your own ‘deer chase’? All you need to set up is a source of water powered by a pump, then allow the water to pour out from a bamboo spout and then into another hollowed out piece of bamboo. As the weight of the water increases in the hollowed out bamboo it causes it to tip and to swivel around slightly. Once filled up it then tilts downwards and pours its water into the basin or bowl beneath. When empty it clunks back into position. If you want something even simpler, then buy some wide diameter bamboo canes, hollow one out, cut the end at an angle and simply create a trickling water spout. Provided you fix everything up with a pump, the water can then be recycled around from the bowl or basin and back into the trickling pipe.
Gravelled areas raked into simple patterns resembling waves or entire circles also help to create a Japanese feel. These can take up the majority of the garden space, be a relatively small area or perhaps link your existing garden into the Japanese ‘room’ that you have created. Concentric rings of raked gravel or sand look particularly dramatic if you place a sizeable, interestingly shaped boulder, stone or specimen plant in the centre of the middle circle.
When it comes to plants there are several which instantly help to evoke that Japanese effect. The so-called Japanese maples with their intricately divided leaves epitomise Japanese gardens and many will turn brilliant shades in the autumn. Japanese azaleas too can be used to great effect and can bring in some of those really bright colours which look so good for the relatively simple garden surrounding them. Pine trees may be too large for most gardens, but you can gradually bend the stems of a smaller one to create a bonsai effect. Of course, if you’re a collector of bonsai then most of these trees actually enjoy spending the summer outside in a garden and provided they are kept adequately maintained, will look great in your Japanese garden.
A trip down to your local garden centre is bound to supply you with a few oriental-themed containers. Plant one or two of these up with a small acer, camellia, miniature azalea or miniature bamboo and you will really help to complete that oriental touch.
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